“Gouda?! Are you insane?”
“Are you? It’s perfect. It’s rich; it’s nutty. It melts in the mouth, literally and figuratively. I cannot with you right now. You’re a peasant for not liking gouda in your grilled cheese.”
I sat back on the couch with a small smirk on my face, enjoying myself immensely. I had turned off the tv a while ago to better focus on the show before me as Gavin and Jesse threw airy fists about who made the best grilled cheese sandwich. It was a delightfully gloomy day in May, filled with thunderstorms, and we were cozily stuck inside. I had, had the brilliant idea of adding to the coziness by making grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. That’s when the show began.
Maybe I’m a simple girl, but if it’s warm, melty cheese, I’ll eat it happily, no matter the kind. Heck, throw on some Kraft singles if that’s all there is. I’m not picky. But oh no. Jesse and Gavin had taken it upon themselves to show off their culinary prowess. To them, food was no joke, not even the humble grilled cheese. It had been over thirty minutes, with talk of white cheddar, gouda, sharp cheddar… Was there mention of Brie? I may have spaced out a few times. But as my stomach’s growls began to grow in frequency and fierceness, I realized we were no closer to a treaty as when they had begun their debate.
“Enough already,” I said hangrily. “You both should just make a sandwich, and I will be the judge.” Double the gooey cheese for me, I thought gleefully.
“No way,” Jesse said incredulously. “He’s your boyfriend; you’re going to be biased!”
“Oh my gosh, they’re just sandwiches. I can be unbiased,” I said exasperated.
“No, no. He’s right,” Gavin said, avoiding my glare. “We should do a blind taste test to make sure there is no bias and to make the focus the taste of them.”
We all agreed; me largely to get the ball rolling before I turned into a full hangry gremlin as I may have been prone to do. The boys prepped their stations with giddiness. Blocks of cheese were slipped under bowls or kitchen towels as each tried to conceal their “secret” weapons from the other. Satisfied with their battle stations, Jesse and Gavin turned to each other solemnly and shook hands.
“Gouda-luck,” Gavin said with a pathetically contained smirk.
“I don’t need luck, I’m brie-liant,” Jesse replied with a cool poker face.
They both burst out laughing, slapping each other on the shoulders. I rolled my eyes and smiled. I loved these goons but goons they were. Get them together and the puns and dad jokes rained down like the weather outside.
I settled in at the counter with the timer on my laptop open to make it a true culinary show-down. Breadcrumbs flew from cutting boards as they both cut their sandwich bases with laser precision. As I watched Gavin shave off a microscopic sliver, I remembered what he had told me once, “If the sandwich base is wrong, the whole sandwich will be wrong. Would you build a building on a crappy foundation? I think not.” I smiled warmly watching him. He could get so hyper-focused on things, and he always wanted to make sure he did something as perfectly as he could. Maybe that would in fact give him the edge here. But then my gaze drifted over to Jesse’s station, and I thought Ooh, maybe not. He had moved on to cutting cheese, and as I stared at the huge chunks and slabs, all I could think was So gooey, with hearts in my eyes. This was going to be a harder judging than I had thought.
The timer was getting down to the last couple minutes. The smell of butter from the hot pans filled my mouth with saliva as I imagined the soon to be melted cheese. They both gently put their creations into the butter baths with satisfying sizzles. You would think they were new mothers checking on their babies with the way they each hovered over the sandwiches, checking their coloring every five seconds.
Gavin was the first to flip his. It looked beautiful. A light golden brown evenly on the slice. But with the way he kept glancing over at Jesse’s pan, I could tell he was doubting his timing. Shortly after, Jesse flipped his as well. From where I sat, it looked like the exact same color. It must have been at least close enough because Gavin then resumed his constant surveillance of his own sandwich. I knew Jesse was feeling the pressure just as much by the way he wiped his temples on his shirt sleeves almost like a nervous tic.
“Thirty seconds!” I called out excitedly. I felt like a Chopped judge and the power may have been going to my head a little bit. “Plate! Plate! Don’t forget presentation!” I yelled out over the din.
Jesse and Gavin threw up their hands dramatically as the timer went off. I took in the two white plates they had toiled over. Cheese slowly cascaded down the sides of Jesse’s sandwich and buttery goodness shown faintly on the top slice of Gavin’s. Heaven. I wiggled in my seat as they brought them over to me. The moment we’d all been waiting for: the gooey deliciousness hitting my taste buds. Alright, maybe that was more what I’d been waiting for. They eagerly told me to close my eyes as they cut slices of their masterpieces. The moment they had been waiting for was to see who had created the ultimate grilled cheese. Who would be able to hold this over the other’s head for eternity? It was time.
My first bite made me sigh contentedly. It was the kind of sandwich that made you think of your grandma making you a grilled cheese when you were sick. It made everything right in this world. My second bite was equally good, though tasting more of hints of adventure. It left me thinking Oh, this is something different. I think I want to know more? I was torn. Truly and not just because I didn’t want to hurt feelings. These really were the best grilled cheeses I had ever tasted, and I had to force myself not to proceed to engulf them both before I had reached my decision. I turned away from the counter and opened my eyes.
“Well?” Gavin asked cautiously. “Have you decided?” His eyes had doubled in size, I swear.
“Give me a minute,” I said defensively. Then slowly, “I like them both but for different reasons.”
“Ugh, you’re killing me smalls,” Jesse said with a rolling shake of his head.
Ok, if I could only eat one, which would I want to eat? I tried to puzzle out in my head. After what probably seemed like hours to the boys, who were nervously shifting from foot to foot, I made my decision. I looked at them in turn, tense anticipation on both their faces.
“Both were the best grilled cheeses I’ve ever had. But the one I would want to eat if I could only pick one is…” They both leaned in almost imperceptibly. “The first one!” I should have known to cover my ears before declaring the victor:
“Yeah, buddy!!” Jesse crooned as he did a victory dance.
“Babe!!” Gavin bemoaned. “Come on, mine had so much complexity!”
I held up my hands and shrugged. “When I want a grilled cheese sandwich, I want an ooey-gooey grilled cheese sandwich. I want good ole’ comfort food, honey.” I turned back to the counter as they picked up their debate again.
“I told you, you were crazy for using gouda!”
“Oh you guys just don’t appreciate the subtleties! The finer things!”
Their voices began to fade into the background as I happily took turns biting into the sandwiches before me. Mmm, gooey complexity.